Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lizards in the Bougainvillea

Every morning, after breakfast, it's time for a wander out back.  I am never alone.  Usually by that time, Rack the SuperDog (TM) is ready for his final excursion of the morning.  He will have a full day of resting, napping, and generally watching me do my own thing until Lunch time when he tries for a morsel or two as a snack.

He usually gets some, I'm a soft touch.

Or so I have been told.

We will generally inspect the area.  He has his perimeter search and if there aren't any dreaded trash trucks in the neighborhood, he may even decide that he wants to romp a bit.

If not, I entertain myself with what goes on in the yard.  There are always gardening chores to look into.  The cutting pots must be watered.  Orchids will have to be looked after.  The Staghorn ferns probably have had their Spanish Moss tossed out of them and need to be picked up and set right. 

Generally it's a Quiet Before The Storm time of day.  The neighbors aren't usually rattling around, that's my job.  I'm the one up at stupid hours, so early that even Oscar the parrot goes back to sleep when I settle in.  Going outside is a chance to think about what needs to be done, and set out a plan for the day.

All the while I am being watched.

My friends that live back there, the lizards, watch over me.  Sometimes they're watching to avoid, other times they're actively looking for my attention.  Completely harmless, quite beneficial, and normally entertaining. 

I honestly think that I live in their house and they graciously allow me to remain here, at times.

But there they will be at that hour, recharging their solar batteries.  You would think that they are easy pickings out in the open like that, but I have never seen them molested.  I guess a creature smaller than your finger wouldn't be worth the chase to a larger bird.

They will hang there eating the ants off my palm tree that grew too close to the house.  The tree itself is on borrowed time since it's a hazard in a hurricane, but for now it will remain.  Its replacement was planted in the island in front of the house a year ago and is growing quite well, but this tree with the moss on the North Side will not remain in the long run.

Meanwhile, it provides an environment for my little Cuban Brown friends to hang upside down and dine and pose for the paparazzi that live there with them among the flowers.

As long as I don't get too close, I may even be able to enjoy a little time with them as well.  Even if this one leaves, there will be another one to take its place.  Too good a spot to pass up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Oatmeal Mango Raisin Cookie Recipe

Every recipe I have posted here I have personally tried.

Some are excellent and I keep referring to them.

Others are a work in progress and need a certain something.

I'd say this is a work in progress.

Now, why would I be posting this?

  • These cookies are about as guilt free as you possibly can get.  
  • There is zero added fat, sugar, or chemicals.  
  • They are low in calories at 50 calories to the ounce.
  • They are high in fiber - every ingredient is high fiber.
  • They would make an excellent meal replacement.
  • They taste of Oats and Mangoes, Cinnamon and Raisins.
  • They are easy to make, and actually kind of fun to make too.
  • They have no wheat, rye, or barley flour so it is Gluten Free.
  • They can be made with Bananas if you don't like Mangoes.

So why the weak praise?  If you were looking in my window at this moment, you would see me chewing on one of these right now.

But, they're just not "sweet".  Oh sure, they're sweet, but cookies traditionally are a sugary treat.  These are a very healthy food, but since there is no added sugar, you just don't get that "dessert-y" sugary kick out of them.

If I were to make these for a proper "snack" I would increase the amount of oats and add some honey to them.

The other drawback is that the texture for the length of time I baked them was wrong.  I'd bake them longer than the 8 minutes you see listed because they were a bit "spongy".  That's a trade off, so bake them until they're well done and you should get something more chewy as the natural sugar in the Mango will caramelize.  Longer still and you'll get crunchy.

Anyway... These puppies will fill you up and probably should be called Granola instead.  But I digress.

The Recipe - as listed made a little more than 8 cookies.

The ingredients:
  • 4.5 ounces of Mangoes in chunks - Banana can be substituted as well as firm melons like Canteloupe or Honeydew.
  • 1 Cup Quick Oats
  • 1 Ounce Raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

The Process:
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Chunk your Mango into a mixing bowl.
  • Add Quick Oats, Raisins, and Cinnamon to the Mango.
  • Mix with your hands the batter until evenly mixed.  The batter will be the consistency of a sticky dough or modeling clay.
  • Measure out your cookies in one ounce servings.
  • Roll the cookies into a ball and then flatten them out in the palm of your hand.  Thinner is best!
  • Place them on the cookie sheet, and since they don't rise, they may be placed closely together.
  • Bake at 350F for 8 minutes for soft cookies, longer for other textures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Eye To Eye With A Dragonfly

Tread Lightly, there are wee creatures about.

This was going through my mind as I walked outside into the late afternoon sun.

I was in the great windup for the evening march about town.  Rack the SuperDog (TM), my faithful sidekick, needed to get out and explore the world, exercise his mind, and water a few shrubs.  I was looking forward to seeing things around town after being cooped up reading accounting books all afternoon, and who knows what all else before that.

Walking to the unreasonably brilliantly white mailbox, I bend down low, grab the post from their hiding place, and start looking at what was misdelivered.  Two for me, 8 for my next door neighbor. 

Amusing, I'll have to walk it over to his box.

I take one step and a cloud of Dragonflies lift from their perches in my grass.

"Oh, yeah!  It's an early wet season.  Watch where I walk!"

I am slowly treading through the turf across the front of the yard.  Dozens of amber and brown gems are floating on the breezes, flickering lights as they go by.  It was the third day after the first rains.  The Dragonflies lay their eggs in the lawn, going through their lives eating grubs that eat the turf, and generally being beneficial to man's way of life.  The rains hit and they make the transition to their next stage of life that we all see. 

The timing is so that those pets that we all have and loathe so much, Mosquitoes, hatch and get out into the environment.  About the only thing I can say good about them is that Mosquitoes feed the Dragonflies that I enjoy watching.  Other than that I would love to put a giant Simpsonian Springfield dome over the city and fill it full of insecticides to kill the blighters off.

Step again, another cloud rises.  At this time I am seeing amber waves of Dragonfly wings rising and falling.  I am in a cloud right out of a Disney movie, sparkling and fluttering on the breeze.  Hundreds of them flying around me as I make my way East.  I leave my neighbor his collection of junk mail, and head back.  This time the amber is brighter as I head into the sun.

Gently I make my way back to the house, enjoying yet another encounter with nature.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Confuse Yourself With A White Mailbox

We moved into the house 10 years ago, roughly.

Since we have been here, we've fixed things.  Other things we haven't really paid too much attention to.  It works, it may not be perfect but it is "Serviceable".   If it broke we could probably fix it, or replace it, or something else that would come to pass.

The mailbox was one of those things.

You don't often give a mailbox much thought.  The postie comes by, drops something in.  If you're home you say hello to Postman Pat, get your daily mail, then wander back to the house with a stop by the recycling bin.

I don't mind getting "Junk Mail" since it's keeping the US Postal Service in business.

But the actual box?  Meh.  It's there.

The same can be said for my house that I grew up in, in the sainted land of New Jersey.  Cherry Hill, NJ. 

We replaced it once.  I can't remember why, but it was there.  Doing its job, day in and day out.

We'd had a discussion here lately about how the old box was getting to look a bit odd.  Tatty.  Dirty actually. 

Off at the local big box store, we'd started looking at new ones.  That was started because some drunk came down our street one night and drove over the post holding the old one up.  I picked up the old post and box off the ground, we pulled the concrete slug holding the thing in until that day, and slid the old post back in the hole. 

Simple and elegant.  Ok, so sure, the mailbox is lower now.  I have to bend down lower to see what's in there, but it works.

The flag on the West Side of the box snapped off in the process and has been mulched by the lawnmower.  Long gone, I'd say.

When we were looking at shiny new boxes we realized we'd need a new post and would have to get all of that at once.

Inertia hit and we left empty handed.

That happened a couple times and finally I got annoyed at the process.   Waiting for the right day, when nobody was there to say otherwise, I attacked the old box.

Early in the morning there was a complex series of events.  Naturally, I'm a bit complex myself.  The bottle of cleaning solution exploded under the sink due to a freak weather front coming through and making my ears pop all day.  I had to clean up all that blue fluid and got A Bright Idea.

I went out to the front yard with the scrubbing pad that was sodden with cleaning solution and scrubbed the old box to a nice charcoal grey.  You know, what your black T Shirt gets to look like when it's too comfortable to toss out, but no longer black?

That's the box.  I scrubbed all the rust off the thing and it was a uniform color.  Quite impressed I mentioned that we had a New To Us mailbox and walked back inside.

Until the next day.

Bright idea time.  I remembered I had the tail end of some Primer White Exterior Flat Latex Paint.  That's what it called itself. 

I walked outside in the heat of the day and proceeded to make myself flash blind.  White Paint on a midday sunshiny day will make you walk into a door frame when you go back indoors, so be careful.

Not so bright that in two hours later I went back outside and gave the old box another coat of white.

Yes, I painted over the numbers.  We need new numbers.  The old ones were stuck to the side of the box and the new ones will be stuck over top of that just like those annoying registration stickers that have no purpose on your license plate.

Don't get me started on that one.  Those stickers make no sense except where they actually put the license plate number on them.  But basically it's there to keep someone in the state capitol employed.  Make Work Project my father would call it and I agree.

Walking back into the house, I called it done as I banged my left shoulder on the door frame.  The job was fine - good enough.  Paint brushes clean.

But the thing is I nudged the apple cart and a few golden delicious fell off the other side.

In my living room are two green chairs.  Mine sits close to the front window.  That's how I like it.  It's a little warmer than the other, but I can see out the window and watch the sunset.  Every night that I am sitting there, I get to watch the sunset over top of the Shoppes and the palm trees.  I always notice.  Unfortunately some days it notices me and shines right into my eyes in brilliant subtropical laser beams.  But lately it has just been pleasant.

While the old mailbox was black and unobtrusive, Zinc Oxide Primer White Exterior Flat Paint is brilliant in the Florida Sun. 

While I ignored the old mailbox before, now it shined in my eye like a beacon.

It was a very bright weekend. 

We watched some old sitcoms, a couple movies, and generally enjoyed domesticity when I commented.

"Now that it's white, I keep looking at the damn thing!"
What's that?
The Mailbox!  It keeps catching my eye!
Don't worry about that, the sprinklers will dye it rust.
We need new paint.  I want some old school Barn Door Red High Gloss Paint!
Yep!  You're at it again!  You're making more work for yourself.  Do you think it will hide the rust?
Better than the white will, I'll have to paint the box over in a month if its left white.

And so it goes.   So if you want to confuse yourself, change something that you never see into something that is brilliantly in your face.  It should give you at least one conversation.

I've heard more than once from the neighbors that I should "DO something with it and be Creative!".  One suggested rainbow colors, another was talking about fire engine red.  Safety Yellow might be an interesting suggestion, but I'm thinking Barn Door Red.

That should be close enough to the rust stains on the house.  Yeah, Barn Door Red!  Get the keys, we need to go to the paint store!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Man Takes Off Work Early And Goes Drinking

He stays until the bar closes at three in the morning, at which time he is extremely drunk.

After leaving the bar, he returns home on foot.

When he enters his house, he doesn't want to wake anyone, so he takes off his shoes and starts tip-toeing up the stairs.

Half-way up the stairs though, he falls over backwards and lands flat on his back. That wouldn't have been so bad, except that he had couple of empty pint bottles in his back pockets, and they broke; the broken glass carved up his back terribly. Yet, he was so drunk that he didn't know he was hurt.

A few minutes later, as he was undressing, he noticed blood, so he checked himself out in the mirror, and, sure enough, his behind was cut up terribly. He then repaired the damage as best he could under the circumstances, and he went to bed.

The next morning, his head was hurting, his back was hurting, and he was hunkering under the covers trying to think up some good story, when his partner came into the bedroom.

"Well, you really tied one on last night," she said. "Where'd you go?"
"I worked late," he said, "and I stopped off for a couple of beers."

"A couple of beers? That's a laugh," she replied. "You got plastered last night. Where did you go?"
"What makes you so sure I got drunk last night, anyway?"

"Well," she replied, "my first big clue was when I got up this morning and found a bunch of band-aids stuck to the mirror. "

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Young Monk Arrives At The Monastery

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church, by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So, the new monk goes to the Old Abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even an error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.”

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives, in a locked vault that hasn’t been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the Old Abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

“We missed the R! We missed the R! We missed the bloody R!” His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk asks the old Abbot, “What’s wrong, father?”

With a choking voice, the old Abbot replies,“The word was—CELEBRATE!”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rack Says, Slow Down, The Lights Are Changing!

I'm waiting for someone to get home.  It's time for the dog walk.

Me and my Faithful Sidekick, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) had already been out to the backyard.

We went out through the double doors, walked out into the sunlight, and greeted the afternoon by peeing on it.

Now, don't be silly, not all of it.   He knows not to pee on my mint because, well, it's Mine.  Besides, yuck!

There are a few oddball herbs in the garden.  The Basil that I finally got the right pot to grow is right at dog nose level.  It's in a white ceramic pot that sits on the irrigation drip-feed.  Rack walked right over to it and caught a scent.  Sniffed it and ...

"Had a nice sneezing fit did you, dog?"

He smiled at me in that content way that dogs have when they were caught doing something dumb. 

I got this thought placed in my head like an induced memory "If I smile like this, he won't tease me for being dumb, he'll think it's cute and smile!"

Yep.  However I got that thought, it was right.  I laughed.

Rack took off.  Ran off around the big palm tree, leapt over the spa, then sniffed the mint again.  He seems to do that at odd times.

At that point Rack bent space-time.  Einstein would be amazed.  His matter blurred in our own place when he launched into motion.  The air behind him cracked as he first broke through the sound barrier, then approached C, the speed of light.

Interesting, boy, you usually save your inter-dimensional travel for behind the shed.  His black and grey blur ran past the back end of the pool, over the stone fountain that hasn't worked since the early part of the century, then curled around the Sea Grape tree.

Leaves were pulled out of our dimension as Rack roared past.  He was now out of sight, bending distance as he ran.  The turf showed where he had been as all the sudden the world went quiet.  SuperDog was visiting his SuperDog family in the Dog Universe that is on the other side of the Wormhole that resides in my backyard, behind the shed.

After a gap of a few seconds, white caps formed on the pool.  The usually placid waters rocked due to a vibration, a Change In The Force.  I heard a dull rumble.  Rack was reentering our plane of existence.  Wind rustled the Hibiscus and the Coleus near the big Sea Grape tree as a black and white blur dropped out of Warp into my yard, and continued to decelerate down below the speed of sound.  He did a figure eight around the Bougainvillea picking up brilliant magenta blossoms into his wake, then once around the big palm tree.  He was down around the speed limit for the neighborhood as he hurled himself over the spa, and slowed to a brake near my back door.

"Are you done, boy?  Time for a refuel?  Need water?"

Rack looked back at me and wagged his tail as if to say "Get a move on it, you need to come inside.  The mosquitoes are catching up to you!"

I padded across the yard to get to the door.  "Here you go Rack, go on in.".

He got his drink then walked over to the big green chair.

"Slow down, it's time to relax."

His eyes began to change from his usual glowing robotic green to yellow from left to right.  Smiling, we knew all was right with him and his dog family in the canine universe on the other side of the wormhole from my little shed.

"Ok, Rack, we'll go for a walk soon.  Have a rest, it was a long trip to get back here from the other realm."

One more implanted thought appeared glowing on my cerebellum.  "Thanks, it was fun visiting the folks.  My kingdom is safe.".

"Rack, sometimes I wonder what goes on inside that furry little head of yours!"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rainbows and Palm Trees

It's time for a breather.

The morning calm before the storm.  It's like when the neighbor kid is learning to play the drum.  He's in a garage band banging on those skins all the time, then, all the sudden...


You get a clear radar after a couple days of rain and it's that same sort of feeling of antici... 


Rocky Horror aside, that's what we've got.  They're predicting storms today, but for the moment, quiet and sun.

On the other hand, This Ain't Nothin'.  Hurricane season is a month off.  June 1.  We're early.  Start looking over your shoulder. 

Eat all the Good Stuff from the freezer.  You should have had that steak back in February!

We had a proper power outage the other day.  Call it a dry run.  Five hours into it, the ice was still solid, the milk was still cold, even though Lunch was at the middle of it.

Set a roll out on the counter, grab the Jelly while you have the fridge door open, grab the peanut butter.  Lunch will be the old school favorite.  Next, quick, get the Iced Tea carafe from the fridge since you forgot to grab it before, set it on the counter.  Get your glass, and fill it with ice.  Got to have something cold to wash down the PB&J with.

Meanwhile, the laptop batteries are getting low, the machine has been hibernated.  Play with the AM radio to see what you can find.  Less noise on the band since all the equipment in the house is dead quiet.  There's this weird radio station way down at the bottom of the band playing something resembling Elevator Music and a Spanish speaking announcer.  Curious...  I swear I heard "Matamoros", a city near Brownsville, TX I believe.

A power outage gives you a chance to look around and do things you were procrastinating on inside the house.  There is always a lot to do, and the power could come on any minute.

Or not.  Five hours later the fans whir to life, and you finally figure out that you were listening to a radio station in Cuba.  Weird.

But today, so far, sunny.

Time to get some real things done, bring home the bacon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Police Use Selfie To Return Phone and the Importance of ICE

Being That Guy who is out walking his dog at stupid hours of the morning, I see a lot of weirdness.

Oh sure, I live in a tourist town in South Florida.  That could be redundant in itself, but its true. 

So I see a lot of weirdness.  Wait, I said that once already.

Some of that weirdness is best that I keep to myself.  Let me just say I see what you do out there and Shame.  Trust me some of that is truly bizarre. 

Luckily, most of what happens here is people from outside coming in and enjoying things a bit too much and therefore creating problems.

You lot party a bit too hearty.  No, really you do.  Have a little moderation.  A little goes a long way.  You wander down our streets using the wall to steady yourself.  Even my dog sees it and he is smart enough to know when to stay away.

So as you use that wall to steady yourself, you reach into your pocket for your keys.   What you were going to do with those keys scare me, but you have dropped them instead.

This is where I come in handy.  You see, I have found more sets of keys than I care to count.  I do tend to find a lot of things and since City Hall is on my normal walk, I tend to leave things there.  Just ask the Police Department. 

Really.  It gets to be a bit repetitious.  Keep a better handle on things.

So when the Police Department gets them they ask me where I found it and I tell them.  They also ask me a lot of random questions about myself that makes me think that it would be a lot easier if I just left your things sitting where I saw them in the grass next to that shoe.

This story doesn't seem to be that impaired. 

It also has the benefit of some really great Aussie Sense Of Humour.  Love the way the Australians think, even if they are upside down.

They don't like that joke either, but hey...

You see a lady lost her phone.  It was found by someone in Albury, New South Wales, Australia.  They took it to the police department, being good people who do that sort of thing.  Lo and Behold they were able to get into the phone.  There was no passcode.  I am assuming they couldn't find the person's own personal information but they were able to get onto her Facebook software and post a selfie.

Of the police.  Told her that she should come and get her phone because it's safe.  They also said that she should use a passcode to lock the phone. 

Of course if there was a passcode and no personal information on the phone, the police would just have to hope that this person came to them and asked.  Small bit of circular logic.

What I do is I have a passcode, however I also have some ICE on the phone. 

ICE stands for "In Case Of Emergency".  All the first responders know to look for that sort of information, although it is a bit vague where they look for it. 

I made it easy.  On my lock screen in Android, you can go into the settings and personalize it.  I added a message "ICE 954-xxx-xxxx".  Yes, a phone number, No, you may not have it.

Someone presses the button to check to see if they can get in to the phone and if they're honest, I'll get my phone back. 

Honest people do still exist.

So add a little ICE to your phone if you can, I can't tell you if your shiny iPhone has this feature or not.  You could always use the Find My iPhone Feature, and Android has a similar service, but this is easy.

It also might make things easier if you need a wall to hold yourself up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fudge Brownies From Scratch - Of Course They're Easy!

I know every time I go food shopping to make sure I'm "tanked up".  You know, have a snack first? 

Never shop on an empty stomach, you just end up buying "crap".

But... I was surfing on an empty stomach.  I had hit that dreaded hungry zone an hour before a meal.

Then this recipe showed up.

It's a basic brownie recipe, and it looked really quite simple.  

Melt the ingredients.  Bake the ingredients.  Eat the ingredients, er, results.

I did all that and I have to say, I will most definitely do it again.  I did not add nuts last time and I want to try it with Pecans.  Pecans are my Go-To nut when I'm baking anyway.  They cook up soft, have more flavor than Walnuts, and don't overpower like Peanuts.  If the timing is right, I'll toss in some mini marshmallows and make Rocky Road.

My own personal history with baking brownies is long.  There was a home-ec class we all had to take in 7th grade.  Since I have a scientific mind, I took to the whole baking thing quickly.  Baking is more like chemistry than cooking a roast is.  If you get the proportions wrong, it turns out badly, and in some cases a recipe could be quite fussy.

Think anything with Meringue.

But this particular recipe?  Simple.  Literally toss the stuff into a bowl and warm it.  It can be done in the microwave, but I suggest a Bain Marie or Double Boiler.  It's a wee bit more trouble but worth it.  Just a bowl floating on top of some simmering water and you get the right amount of heat.

The whole thing is simple.  (Hmmm, Where did I hear that before?)  Get your ingredients to room temperature first.  Just melt your butter and chocolate chips in the bowl.  If you are using the Bain Marie, put the butter on the bottom of the bowl so it melts first.  Stir it around and when it is smooth and melted, remove it from the heat and fold in the other ingredients.  Whisk it smooth, then put the batter in the prepared pan.

Preparing that pan made it perfect.  Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan.  Cover that with parchment paper.  I gave the paper a quick once over with some more cooking oil.  It all just popped free.

Bake until the toothpick comes out clean.

  • 8 ounces good chocolate chips
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter (Room Temp!)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar (baby!)
  • 2 Eggs (Room Temp!)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • Confectioners Sugar for dusting (Optional)

  • Gather all ingredients and get them warmed to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350F/180C
  • Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan generously or use non-stick spray.
  • Line the bottom and sides with Parchment Paper. 
  • I oiled the parchment paper and the recipe just fell off the paper perfectly.
  • Set glass or stainless steel bowl on top of a simmering pot of water for your Bain Marie.
  • Add Butter, then Chocolate Chips and stir until everything is melted and smooth.
  • Remove Bowl from the Pot and carefully whisk in the sugar and brown sugar.
  • Whisk in or Mix in an egg at a time followed by the vanilla extract and flour.
  • Whisk the mixture until the batter is well combined and smooth.
  • Transfer Batter to the 8x8 Loaf Pan
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F/180C. 
  • It is done when the toothpick can be inserted in the center and comes out clean with few crumbs.
  • Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.
  • Allow the brownies to cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours before cutting into pieces and serving.
  • Optionally dust the brownies with confectioner's sugar to serve.

Recipe was adapted from PBS Kitchen Explorers

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bounty Of Rollerblades - Tuning Up The Inline Skates After 50 Miles

Everyone has a sport.

This one is mine.

It is no longer fashionable, but I truly don't care.

I'm not doing it for those people who think fashion is the end all of existence, I never do anything for that.

I'm doing it for me.

I was that guy.  I skated 21,000 miles.  I would do 100 miles in a week.  My peak week was one week that I took off from work and skated 204 miles in seven days total.  I was at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia so much on those skates that the park workers asked me if I was training for something.

Nope.  I really do enjoy skating.  In fact, I skated so much that I had to actually limit myself to 100 miles a week normally because I could over-train.  Near the end of the season, October into November, before the time change I would slow my skating down.  I had to distance limit myself to get the metabolism back down to something approaching normal.  Eating a training diet in the winter was never a good thing.

Even now when my fitness level is not at that same peak as it was.  Meh.  Don't care.  I've got my box of parts and tools and know how to use them.

In season, I used to slack.  I would tune the skates up every other week.  That's 200 miles.  They really needed it weekly but it takes an hour just to tear them down, wipe off the dirt from the bearings, reassemble everything with loctite and call it good.

That was what I did over the weekend.  One of my Weekend Projects.  I've been skating these days just enough to go out and enjoy it.  Headphones on playing music to keep me moving, I'd hit the park where the Goodyear blimp lands and do a circuit plus a mile.

Only 5.5 miles?  Yep.  I'm not skating to prove anything.  Just to enjoy a visit with an old friend.

I was all set to do a complete teardown - that was the 200 mile service.  Pull all the bearings from the wheel, the speed kit from the axles, and fully disassemble the bearings.  That meant I'd be de-greasing, drying, re-greasing, and reassembling each of the 16 bearings, then the wheels, and finally inspecting the boots.

Did all of that with a smile on my face.

I will let you in on a secret though.  Duct tape.  I duct taped the inside of the boots.

No, seriously.  It's like when you wear shoes out.  That spot in the back of the heel where the fabric wears out first. It starts as a small hole or tear.  Put a small square of duct tape over that and you'll be fine.  Just don't tell anyone.

Why do I do that?   My racing skates cost $600 per set.  Even this pair of "run of the mill" boots were over $250 back in the day, although I got my competition discount from the shop I went to.

I used to get some bearings tossed at me by the same shop, long since closed in the collapse of the sport.  You just can't run out to a sporting goods store these days and pick up a serviceable pair of high end touring skates any more.  For that matter I don't think they're even being made available.

Philadelphia was a bit of a hotbed for distance and speed skating.  I was into distance.  I'm way too tall and muscular to truly be fast.  So I'd do 30 miles at 12 MPH average.  4 minute miles.  I could do that forever if the winds were at my side.  Even faster if it were at my back.  Then it would be scary-fast.

I'd do the run from Philadelphia to Valley Forge if the Fairmount Park loop was clogged with some sort of "Walk" which was just a disruption more than anything else.  It also helped that I managed to get out there some days before 6AM, park at Falls Bridge, Skate to the Art Museum for a warmup before anyone else was out there.  Then do 4 mile sprints from the Rocky Steps to Falls Bridge and back until I got tired, bored, or the Walk was starting.

Easier to go to the Valley Forge loop, Schuylkill River Trail.  If I needed more distance, it was about 15 miles from Philadelphia parking through Valley Forge, and to the head of the Perkiomen Trail at Oaks, PA.  There's a bridge over the Perkiomen Creek that I used to sit, drink my water, eat my power bars, and chat with the other skaters.  One of my favorite spots in the world to sit and chill out.

Pretty country out there, West of Norristown.  Actually, even though it ran through some industrial areas, it was generally quite pretty as long as you weren't in Norristown, PA.  That was a pretty ugly town itself.

But the skating was fun.  Bring a quart or two of ice water, 600 calories of snacks to keep from hitting The Wall, and tank up at the water fountains at Valley Forge Park.  Plenty of Regulars, and Friends.

Yes, up to 600 calories.  Peak season, I needed 3000 a day on my enforced no-training day, and up to 6000 a day just to get my 30 miles plus weightlifting in.

That scene is long gone.

Pompano Beach Air Park has its own Regulars.  A bunch of leftover Canadian Snowbirds, primarily from Quebec.  A very few on skates, most on bikes.  Some locals getting out there to enjoy the trail.

It's black ice.  Smooth asphalt.  4.5 mile loop.  You can see the little planes landing at the civil aviation airport.  Sometimes the Goodyear Blimp is out, and if it is landing I swear it comes in at a sharp angle up to 45 degrees.  Never expected to see that when I got there.

It's not my favorite trail, but it works.  And trust me, after 21,000 miles, I've seen many of them.

The servicing worked.  I have a lot of wheels I picked up after skate shops closed up at a dollar or less a piece, some others from skates people threw out that were used once or twice, and I even bought a pair for "backup" at the thrift shop.  The box is a full "Paper box" that would work for shipping reams of paper.  Along with the probably more than 200 bearings in the bucket, all the assorted axles and screws, bolts and speed kits, I'm set.  Good for a couple thousand miles without ever visiting a skate shop.

All of this for a non-fashionable sport that I truly love.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Truth Assessing Robot

A father gave his son a robot. "The robot is always able to tell if you're speaking the truth. If you lie, the robot will slap you."

One night the son comes home really late. The dad asks, "Where were you?"
"At the library." Bam! The son gets slapped.

"Where were you really?"
"At the movies."

"What movie were you watching?"
"Ten commandments." Bam! He gets slapped again.

"What movie were you really watching?"
The son gets on his knees. "I'm sorry dad, I was watching an adult movie."

The dad gets angry. "When I was a kid, I never did that kind of stuff!" Bam! The dad gets slapped.
The mom walks in. "You two are so a like there's no doubt you're father and son." Bam! She gets slapped.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Man, Gardening, Finds A Snail - plus a bonus for Saturday

Infuriated, he picks the snail up and throws it as hard and as far as he can.

35 years later he gets a knock on his door.

He opens it up and doesn't see anyone.

Finally he looks down and he sees the snail.

The snail asks "What was all that about?"

A Bonus:

A woman playing Golf hit a man nearby.

He put his hands together between his legs.
Fell on the ground & rolled around in pain.

She rushed to him & offered to relieve his pain as she was a Doctor.

Reluctantly he agreed.

She gently took his hands away.
Unzipped his pants & put her hands inside.
She massaged him tenderly for a few minutes & asked: "How does it feel?"

He replied: "Feels great but I still think my thumb is broken"

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Attack Of The Goat-Dog

All of the sudden...


Rack, the faithful McNab Superdog decided that he wanted UP!

It wasn't a case of gimme that iced tea, he never even sniffed the glass.  I think he just wanted a bit of attention.

That's a good thing.  He's a beta-dog, toward the back of the pack.  If I laugh too loudly, grumble at someone, boom too loudly - you get the picture - he's off and hiding somewhere.

I'm loud, grew up in an Italian family.  It's part of that.  I'm also tall, as you can see, so there's a Boom or a resonant ring to the voice.  I've been told I have a command presence, and that has served me well.

So Rack, the meek and quiet, follows me around.  Good!  I'm glad for it.  Happy to oblige.  In fact when he's not nearby things don't feel quite as good.  We've bonded, and as such, I do make an effort not to boom as much.

The phrase Moose Walking On Eggshells comes to mind.

It's a new thing for us.  He's not really a lap-dog, McNabs aren't known for that.  As a rule, they are affectionate and gentle creatures.  He will go and say hello to people, and especially other dogs.  But after the meet and greet is over, he'll curl up nearest to the highest ranking dog in the pack.

Beta-dogs, especially fearful ones, don't climb on their alphas.  It's unseemly.  So this is a new quirk.  Normally he will drape himself over a leg and look up at you with twin brown soulful eyes and let you know that it is your place to make things right simply by being there and accepting him.  No matter how you feel, that melts your heart, and your hand goes over to his head and gently pets him.

After that, if there is room, he may pull himself beside you.  Never overstaying his welcome, he'll be there for a couple minutes as if to check to see if he's welcome, making sure his place is secure.  He will later go to one of the mats for a nice lie down, usually right next to my chair.

Of course this is where my hand will usually drop down and find a warm belly that needs a good rub.

The Cycle of Dog repeats itself, hopefully for a very long time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Return of the Tree Frog

Oh Little Kermit...

I actually miss these frogs when they don't show.

In the morning, about an hour before sunrise I hear them approach.

They herald their presence with a soft thwack against the house.  Usually it's against the windows.  Then all is peaceful and what passes for quiet here.

We share our house with these frogs.  They're entertaining to watch.  I have a small cavity between the windows on the back of the house.  Lined with plexglas on our side, its wide enough for you to slide your fingers into with a little room to spare.

The tree frogs found the spot a couple years back and I get visitors from time to time.  The thwack of their bodies announcing their presence as they sidle into position for a daytime sleep.

In this case there was a conversation it caused here.

"What was THAT?!"
"Just the tree frogs.  They're home for the night."
"Don't they usually come here to sleep all daytime?"
"Yes, but it's out of sync.  It will be fine, it's probably just repositioning itself for whatever work a tree frog does".

At that point, it was announced that I was going to get my picture via email since someone went on a backyard safari.

"Watch for the opossums, have fun, and don't disturb my guests!"

This picture was the result.  It reminded me of some strange B Movie quality in ways, but that's what you get from an iPhone.

They were staying with us for a long block of time, a full season plus a bit.  I guess in the warmer weather, the cool from our house leaking through the single paned plastic was a welcome respite from the heat.

Enjoy it while it lasts my little friend, and do give our best to Miss Piggy.

As for the track below?  One of my favorite early trance tracks.  "Tree Frog" by Hope.  Plus it's got some pretty cool pictures of a green tree frog doing it's thing repeated throughout.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe

I wanted Chinese Food.
I didn't want salty fried food.
I wanted it to be relatively healthy.

Two out of three isn't bad, trust me.

Why not completely healthy?  It turned out to be a bit high in sugar since the recipe calls for a cup of honey.

Yes, a full cup of honey.  You'll want to get the stuff at the wholesale store where it is cheaper.

But, it's easy.  I'm good with a wok.  We buy chicken in 10 pound packs for the restaurant trade, so I repack it in thirds.  Two pounds or so go into the first meal.  The second was a simple stir fry with the leftovers.  I've been using one since the 80s when a good friend gave me one for my birthday, and I still use it to this day.

The idea is to trim your meats down into bite sized chunks and toss it in the sauce that you already made up in the crock pot.  You allow it to cook until done, which according to the USDA is 165F internal temperature.  Then separate out the chicken and pour the sauce into a sauce pan.  Put the sauce on medium heat and cook until thickened.  Add Cornstarch if you find that the sauce is too thin.  I did.

The other helpful hint I can give you is that you need some good kitchen shears.  Scissors to the rest of the world.  Something that you can take a chicken breast and snip the chunks off to the right size.  Much quicker than using a knife or cleaver.

The trick is that chunks cook faster than a large piece of meat.  So watch the temperature closely starting at 3 hours in the crock pot.  Over cooked chicken is tough and unappetizing.

This recipe can be made with chicken, pork, turkey, tofu or any other mild meats.  I have had it with Beef and thought it was a bit of an odd choice for sauces.

Since it served six, and I'm generous on serving sizes, it was well worth the honey that I poured into it. 

Oh and it tasted better than what you'll find out in the restaurants because you aren't hit by a wall of salt!


  •     2½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken parts, turkey, tofu, or other meats could be substituted.
  •     1 cup honey
  •     ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  •     ½ tsp dark sesame oil
  •     2 Tbsp olive oil
  •     1½ tsp minced garlic
  •     2 Tbsp dry onion flakes
  •     ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  •     ¼ tsp crushed red peppers
  •     Up to 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  •     Sesame seeds
  •     Green onions, sliced
  • Add to the crock pot and mix together: honey, low-sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, garlic, onion, barbecue sauce and crushed red peppers.
  • Cut up the chicken parts and add to the crock pot with the sauce.  Mix well.
  • Cook on low for about 3 1/2 hours to 4 hours or until chicken reaches 165F.
  • Remove chicken from crock pot setting it aside in a separate bowl.
  • Add sauce from crock pot to a sauce pan and cook on medium heat until it reduces and thickens.  If needed, add cornstarch slowly to help the thickening.
  • When sauce is thick, add the chicken back to the sauce and coat the chicken.
  • Serve on rice with sesame seeds and green onions, to taste.
This was adapted from Six Sisters Stuff and the original recipe is right here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Avoiding Strange People at 5AM in a Tourist Town is Important

At Five in the Morning, Wilton Drive usually looks like this.


I'm up at five every day.  My body just does.  It started when I was competing on inline skates, the early hour gave me time to get to Fairmount Park in Philadelphia so I could get in a good workout before sunrise.

It still gets up at five now.  This particular morning my mind was reviewing Accounting practices.

"The Income Statement shows Revenues minus Expenses giving Net Income, and that feeds into the Statement of Owner's Capital.  The Statement of Owner's Capital shows the change in Capital over the period with Beginning Capital plus Net Earnings minus Withdrawals giving Capital at end of period.  That Capital line feeds into the Balance Sheet as Assets equal Liabilities plus Capital."

Yes, that was my mind at 4:30AM.  In a loop as I came into full consciousness.

I got out of bed at 5, hauled my own bulk out to walk Rack, and was out on Wilton Drive by 5:15AM.  It looked like that picture.  Deserted.  Not even the delivery trucks were out.

Then I got near City Hall and heard someone say hello, a couple times.  I said hello once and got Rack off Wilton Drive, and around a corner.  I'm good at reading people.  You get that way when you worked in the middle of the Badlands in Philadelphia for 8 years.

Wilton Manors is a "tourist town".  Our population surges just like every other touristy place, we see many more people in town on a Friday Night than on a very early Tuesday Morning, which is when I am writing this.  It's a way before dawn as of this point. 

Yes, I'm writing this to get it off my mind.

This person, Dave he called himself, said "Hey! It's my birthday!" as he weaved almost falling onto Wilton Drive itself.  The empty drinks party bottle may have weighed him down on one side.

Great, Dave The Drunk wants to say hello.

I have also said that: "The problems that we have here are mostly due to "outsiders" coming "Onto the Island" and stirring things up."  Our crime blotter is mostly filled with people from Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, adjoining cities plus the oddball from some place like Ohio or the big cities Up North doing something "Creative" with someone's lawn ornament.

That's also normal to Tourist towns everywhere.

I'm thinking this guy was walking up from Fort Lauderdale, drunk, after celebrating his birthday.  I've seen him lurking around town before. 

Lurking is a good descriptive word, I'd say.

I wasn't quite fast enough changing my route to get away from him.  I made a couple turns designed to disappear from sight, but Rack paused to water some plants.

He caught up to me and insisted on introducing himself and giving me information about himself.  I made brief happy talk of nothing really substantial - the code for "Move on, Pal, and sleep it off".

It didn't work.

Like I said, they come onto the island from out of town to try to cause a ruckus.

I suspect if I were a smaller person, he would have been more aggressive.  I'm 6'4" and 220 pounds, built fairly solid.  Better shape than the average man my age.  This guy was around 5'8" since his head didn't really go past my shoulder and lean, but definitely not handling himself well.

I was clearly mentally doing a threat assessment at this point.  I turned on the flashlight at something to make sure there was enough charge to fire off the taser if I needed it.  It's useful in clearing out pests like badly behaved dogs owners.

He kept up the patter as I walked around the block and headed generically towards home. 

It also was the time of morning that I knew certain people would be getting up and out.  My neighbor Jim was taking his two Samoyeds out for a walk at that time.  I managed to get Rack to sit down so that Jim would make it a point to stay longer.  He looked at my dog and I mouthed "HELP" soundlessly.  He didn't take the hint and moved on.

Well, that didn't work, and the patter kept on.  I kept responding to lower his expectations.  I didn't appreciate the company at all.

Another neighbor was heading to the Gym.  Bob saw this guy and did the "I'm not looking stare" and it really looked like him thinking "You can take care of yourself".

I can.  My own problem is that I'm too nice of a guy.  I did start making comments like "Come on, Rack, time to get home and wash off your feet, I need my coffee".

Yeah, like that works with a panhandler.

He made his plea coming up to the corner of my block.  I cut him off.

"Sorry, can't help you, I don't have any cash with me.  Nobody brings cash with them when they walk dogs at this hour."

Ten bucks?  Get lost.  Inflation hits hard, it used to be "Spare a dollar?"

He wandered off with a few four letter words.  I guess the alcohol that he was "sweating off" didn't hinder his vocabulary.

Fat Tuesday's drinks don't work well as a cologne at all.

My hand relaxed off the taser's red deployment button and I moved quickly home.  Before I turned down the walk, I turned to notice he was well gone.  I left the blinds closed when I got inside the darkened house.

There's "An Element" here, just like every other tourist town.  People flow in to enjoy what's in a tourist town.  People also enjoy tourists - some for the contact, others to try to get something from them. 

While I knew I was safe from harm, I had a dog who was highly aware of any sort of strange activity and he was watching closely the goings on, I did not relax.  He clearly had no room in his T-Shirt and board shorts to fit a weapon, that was obvious even in the sodium orange lights that are used here.

I'll make it a point to be a bit forceful in the future.  It's one thing to be a nice guy, it's another to have to deal with a drunk coming in from Fort Lauderdale looking to buy his next bottle on your ten dollar bill.

I guess I really should add "Crisis Management Expert" to my resume!  If not that, maybe "Alcohol Abuse Counselor"?

Believe it or not, I'm not really bothered by the incident, more annoyed.  It was a disruption to my normal morning routine, and a very rare one.  I'll just make sure it doesn't happen again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hacking the Morning's Coffee at One Gram to the Ounce

Riding around town with a good friend I was told a story about office coffee.

The thing about office coffee is that to a self proclaimed Coffee Geek, it's almost always not quite right.  Offices are falling into the whole automatic coffee brewing "solutions" these days.  Controlled amounts of water, controlled amounts of grounds, controlled brands, all into a controlled machine.

You're locked in.

Now, that's great if you like the stuff. 

I'm listening to my friend, nodding, making the per-requisite happy noises.  "Mmm Hmm".

I hear "But some people are complaining it's weak!".

My response is out of the box as usual.  "The best hamburger is one you make at home, no matter how good that burger is out at the restaurant.".


At home, you control the ingredients.  Black Angus Beef?  80% lean?  Onion powder or other spices?  Egg for binders?  "Meat, Heat, and Eat"?

That last one is my favorite.  Add spices or salt to my burgers, and you had better have served beer BEFORE the meal so it hits me on an empty stomach and I relax a bit. 

I hate a salty burger!

But the point is that if you take the time to make a burger yourself, you are controlling the meal and the experience.  You are taking the time out to figure out how you like the burger.  It may not even be a burger and be all "Meat Substitutes" made out of tofu and soy protein.  That's great, because it will be what YOU like.

That particular office has some people who love the coffee there, and sizable minority who are muttering about how weak it is.

"Maybe they're used to espresso at home?"

I explained that there is a gold standard for brewing American Coffee.  Assuming your water is pure, which is a given in the US even from the tap here in South Florida, and your coffee is something that you like, there is a set amount of grounds to start out with.

One gram of coffee grounds per ounce of boiling water into a brew.

You already decided "how" you will be making your coffee, and that choice effects flavor.  A French Press is my preferred method, and that means I will get more coffee oil in the cup.  That also means my cup will be more complex than someone who does a "drip into Filter" method. 

Turkish coffees are boiled in a little bucket that are placed on the heat and then poured off carefully but some grounds always get into the cup along with some of the spices and all of that precious coffee oil.

Espresso has the oil too, and it is brewed via pressure with much less water to coffee grounds.

The point with that is that there are different ways to make the coffee, but here in the US, you expect a certain strength at the start.

Then you change things around per taste.

I explained that these people are probably the ones who consider themselves Connoisseurs of coffee.  They may come from a background with a tradition of a certain taste of the brew.

They would be the person who I would expect to put care into the drink.  They've got their own way of doing things that work for them.

The whole Office Coffee experience is all about putting caffeine into a body so you can get more productivity out of them.  That's why offices keep coffee there.  Your manager decided it's a great way to keep you motivated at 2PM instead of your nodding off.

"Hey, go get him some coffee, he's half asleep!"

But the coffee itself?  Check the net weight of the grounds, and how much water are used.  It should be 1 gram to the ounce.

That got into another conversation.  I explained that I have a scale that is accurate to the gram, and while it sounds overkill, certain baking recipes (as opposed to cooking things like roasts and such) are very fussy.  Bread dough is effected by the humidity in the air, and since Florida has high humidity just like anywhere on the Seaboard of any country, that humidity changes the way you bake.  Same thing about desert climates, or living up a mountainside.

You just don't get a good rise of dough if your flour is too moist because there's a Tropical Storm a-brewin' outside and the A/C is down.

So good dough recipes are measured in percentages relating to the weight of the flour.  Flour is 100%, water is 80% or 60% depending on the purpose of the recipe. 

Then you do the math for the other ingredients.  Weigh out 300 grams of flour, then calculate the weight of the water, then salt, yeast ... so forth.

I told my friend to bring a measuring cup and a scale to work and see what he could do. 

Instead he gave me a couple coffee "samples" and asked me to weigh them.  11 Grams of Grounds per "pod".  He should start with 11 ounces of water.

Unless you're making Espresso, and that's an entirely different game.

It's one of those things that you never thought about.  But when you do think about it, there are more layers to that particular onion than you considered.

Pass me a couple of the Kona packets since you want my input.  I love a good cup of Kona...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Three Guys Go To The Clinic To Get Tested

The first guy sees the second guy crying and asks " Why are you crying?"

He answers " I got my blood tested today."

And the first guy says " Oh, so you were afraid."

2nd guy goes " No, its not that. During the blood test, they accidentally cut off my finger."

The first guy feels sorry for the 2nd guy, but suddenly the 3rd guy starts crying. "Why are you crying?" Says the 1st guy.

3rd guy says while sobbing, " I am getting my urine test today."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Three Bulls

Three bulls heard the rancher was bringing another bull onto the ranch.

First Bull: "I've been here five years. I'm not giving this new bull any of my 100 cows."

Second Bull: "I've been here three years and have earned my right to 50 cows. I'm keeping all my cows."

Third Bull: "I've only been here a year, and so far, you guys have only let me have 10 cows. I may not be as big as you fellows, but I'm keeping all 10 of my cows."

Just then an 18-wheeler pulls up in the pasture carrying the biggest bull they've ever seen. At 4,700 pounds, each step he takes strains the steel ramp.

First Bull: "I think I can spare a few cows for our new friend."

Second Bull: "I actually have too many cows to take care of. I can spare a few. I'm certainly not looking for an argument."

They look over at the third bull and find him pawing the dirt, shaking his horns and snorting.

First Bull: "Son, don't be foolish -- let him have some of your cows and live to tell about it."

Third Bull: "Hell, he can have all my cows. I'm just making sure he knows I'm a bull."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Teaching The Dog To Beg For More Breakfast

"He knows who to go to, you're the soft touch in this house!"

Yes, I am.  Everyone in this house begs food from me.

Oscar, my orange wing parrot, knows that if he says "Hello?" enough, I'll probably cave and give him a sample.  Mango Season is starting, the neighbor's Hagen Mango tree is beginning to drop fruit.  They gave me permission years back to hit the tree for my Mango Needs.  It helps the people who live there because nobody wants a two pound fruit falling from 30 feet up smacking into their car.

It will leave a dent.

I must eat about 200 pounds of Mangos each year.   Strictly speaking I also pass them out to friends I know who enjoy them, and I make jelly which uses up a lot of them.   Mango puree with a bit of lemon is wonderful to bake chicken in, and the puree itself is tasty.  Recipes use up a lot of Mango in sauces.

Oscar knows that and he starts chattering, and moving to the end of the cage nearest me when he sees me making up my breakfast bowl of Mango Chunks and Yogurt.

I really should just add that to the blender and make a Mango Lassi, but this is easier.

What shouldn't have surprised me was when Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM), began to beg for it as well.

I was having a bit of an Indian themed breakfast that morning.  A bowl of cereal was long forgotten as I grabbed the egg, mayo, and Curry Powder from the fridge.  Making a Curried Egg Salad Sandwich was easy, mash it all up in the cereal bowl, spread on the toasted English Muffin, and enjoy.  Just a dusting of Curry Powder on top.

Rack was there, boring holes into me with twin brown laser beamed eyes.

*Sigh* Rack, at least wait for me to get the stuff finished before you glue yourself to my side.

The toaster announced it was finished with a thump and I made my sandwich.  Surprisingly good this morning.  Time to add mayo to the shopping list.

That left me with a bit of curried egg at the bottom of the bowl.  I could rinse that out in the sink...

Nope.  Ok, Boy, here you go!

He proceeded to try to lick the white off the glass.

Some dogs are truly aggressive with begging.  Pawing your leg or arm.  Barking incessantly like Oscar and his "Hello" routine.  Other behaviors which are truly unacceptable.

Rack is like Lettie was.  Sit down nearby, in sight, and stare holes through you.  If he hears the dreaded "Not For Dogs!" he heads out to the other room, mopes, and stares from a distance.  I guess that's the McNab Dog Way.

Otherwise, when I finish, I tend to leave a little morsel in the bottom of the bowl for him.  I do this because his stomach was quite unsettled when he was a puppy.  When we got him, he was severely underweight due to worms, stress, and the trauma of being an Owner-Surrender.  He simply would eat only under certain conditions, and certain foods only.

If I ever met the guy who had Rack before, trust me, I'd have a "conversation" with that man.

Two courses are done.  Final course.  This was what got Oscar talking at me.  You simply can not out-shout a parrot.  No way, No how.

I began to slice some mango chunks into the orange bowl.  Rack came back sniffing.  The first time I gave him a mango chunk he walked away, I thought I was safe.

That mango was a bit under ripe.  A little sour, a little on the Yellow side instead of the bright orange I was hoping for.  I sliced the flesh away from the skin with the butter knife and piped up:  "Oscar?  Mango?".


When he learns how to say Mango, I am truly in trouble!

Rack feigned studied indifference.  I padded across to the living room, dropped a mango skin with a bit of sweet and sour yellow Mango flesh still attached.  May as well give him the bits I don't like.  He will work on that fruit, skin and all, through the day.  I gave him something to keep him busy.

All the gloves were off right about now.  Rack realized I was giving Oscar Mango so he wanted some too.  I heard a deep humming and realized that Rack was glowing with antici... pation!

I filled the bowl with 8 ounces of mango chunks, and 1/2 cup of plain homemade yogurt.  Lost in my own sweet reverie I was wondering if there were any more trees around ready for the picking.  It's still on the early side but have Mango Pole, Will Travel.

Rack didn't care.  Laser Beams were boring a hole through my mind saying "Feed Me, Seymour!".

I was in trouble.  "Let me finish my breakfast, will you?".

Rack doesn't like being told no, so he did his avoidance act.  Looked away just enough that I was in the corner of the eye.

I laughed at the pitiful display as I finished all but the last couple spoons of yogurt and one small bit of yellow mango.

"Here you go, Rack, Two treats today!"  I dropped the orange bowl on top of the curried egg bowl earlier.  You'd think he was starving with the gusto he tore into the yogurt.

I finished making up my coffee, quietly, as Rack tried to lick the orange off the plastic bowl.

The thing with him is the Social Aspect Of Feeding.  He's a weak beta dog.  Rack will eat only when asked, and invited.  If he's eating, he's very easy to disturb.  However if I am eating, being the pack leader, he will power through the meal and make it a point to finish.  After all, he's used to me giving him that last bit of food when I finish my meal.

I'm making a good approximation for how a pack of dogs, or even wolves, eat in the wild.  The Alphas eat first, the Betas get the leftovers.  I'm speaking dog.

He understands.  Finishing the last bit of yogurt, I lift the two bowls from the top of his purple food bowl.  "I've got to rinse these for the dishwasher, boy."

I turn to my work and he proceeds to try to taste the purple to see if purple plastic tastes different from orange plastic.

All in all it's a good day to be a pet.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Tale Of The Cactus In A Shoe

Once upon a time, there was a man.

This man lived in the Fabled Land of South Florida.  Since he was in South Florida, he was subjected to all sorts of conditions. 

Now, being a rugged, rough and tumble sort of person, this man would go out into those conditions and simply shrug.  After all, he had two of the most precious friends in the world.  One was a good friend, strong and pure, the other had four legs and was a SuperDog.

While the SuperDog did not like to go out into some of those conditions, mostly the ones that included lightning, She did not seem to mind such things as wind and heavy rains.  Our Superdog was not completely fearless, but she was also a rugged, rough and tumble sort herself.

Our pack of three walked many miles in all conditions.  That was their way because those from the land of the City of Brotherly Love have that in their own constitution.  They enjoyed being in the great outdoors.  The kiss of the sun on their brow, the wisp of the wind lifting their hair and gently placing them back where they belonged, and the occasional cool droplets of rain were all things that they looked forward to and enjoyed with gusto.

There was, of course, a minor problem.  While the SuperDog was happy to walk through puddles that could have supported aquatic life, the two men did not enjoy it as much.  This being South Florida, they had to walk around those puddles or else suffer the indignity of having their shoes turn into buckets and carry water far from where it was placed by Mother Nature.

That Mother was a bit of a capricious soul, as we all know.

They searched for a solution.

First they tried something called Sandals.  They did not work since they offered no protection against stones getting under the toes, and that was bad.

Then they tried simply wearing older shoes, but the older shoes would wear out quickly and stop being useful.

Finally they hit upon a solution of a special footwear that was created to accept and then remove the water from the inside.  These special shoes were full of channels to make sure that you did not keep too much water in and create some problems.

Life was good.  The special shoes kept our heroes comfortable and dry.  When through, these shoes could be drained and allowed to dry indoors quickly since there were no fibers known to be natural to man in them.  In fact they were a construction made completely of the refined dinosaurs, and thus were older than 65 Million Years in origin!

However these sainted footwear had a useful lifespan just like any other artifice.  They ended their use by having the sole of the shoe separate in a strip of rubbery material.  That was it.

But to honor the sacrifices of the long deceased dino-warriors that were reduced to synthetic fabrics to clad our heroes' feet, the shoes were repurposed.  They accepted a bit of soil and a pear from a cactus, since they are everywhere in South Florida and were placed lovingly in a spot in their domain.

To this day, the Cactus thrives in their footwear home under the hedges, being kissed by the same rain that the two men and the SuperDog would wait for.  Grabbing moisture, and oxygen from the air, and sunlight from the skies, this Cactus would show its gratitude by putting forth a bloom in Spring, it's own contribution to the beauty that is the natural world.

The End.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Retrospect A Cadillac Wasn't The Right Car To Take Offroad

Admit it.  We have all done some pretty bizarre or boneheaded things in our days.

If you haven't, I bet you're not all that much fun.

Yeah, I said it.  You're not that much fun.

We all know someone who decided to launch a trash can onto the roof by putting it on top of a piece of fireworks then lighting it in their front yard.

We all know someone who used to build go carts in their back yards.

We all know that neighbor who insists that Raccoons are great pets.

All of that happened in my own childhood in my own sheltered suburban upbringing in the fabled city of Cherry Hill, NJ.

So get off your damn soapbox and hear the story of one of my own boneheaded trips.

You see, I like to travel.  Truly.  I like to get out and explore and see things not necessarily in my own backyard.  I used to go on my bike and ride out of my protected neighborhood to the wild place called Woodcrest Shopping Center.  It would take me out to Berlin Road, then over the I-295 bridge and the NJ Turnpike Bridge.

It was a world away, and it made me feel like I achieved something in my own pre-teen mind even if it was only a mile and a half off from the house.

Later when I got my first car, we started to explore.

I'd go down to a semi-adjacent town to visit a friend.  Somerdale, NJ.  An older settled burb that was a little less Wonder Years than my own home.  It felt different. 

We'd go further on until we got hooked on going offroad.  I still have my third Jeep Wrangler, but the first was a CJ-7.  The CJs were a rough buckboard of a car that were so uncomfortable that I traded it in on a compact car in Indianapolis after going for a visit one year.

But while I had it, I discovered the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

South Jersey is nothing like what "You People" think of when you think of New Jersey.  No closely settled homes in rows where you might get a good meal on a Sunday afternoon, those places have their own charm, if you grew to know them.  They're also kind of polluted, since they are too close to New York City or Philadelphia.

The Pines are where the roads turned to dirt.  There never was a real reason to settle these areas since the soil was basically beach sand and you couldn't farm other than Cranberries.  If you look from the skies all you see are pine trees, berry bogs, cedar water rivers, and small towns in the middle of a vast "empty" area.

But if you explore them, you find a beautiful forest unlike any other place that was surprisingly easy to get to.  They're latticed like a good pie, Cris-crossed by groomed fire-trails so that when the dry summer season hits, the fires can be stopped before they burn down those little towns.

You really didn't need a Jeep to go through those areas, but it helped.

We'd drive down to the Carranza Memorial and see the monument to the man who died flying back to Mexico to speak in New York about the children's fate back in the pre-war era.  Those same children saved their pesos to build that monument.  Now, you can get there and picnic easily since the state built a small parking area.

From there you can hop on one of those sand trails and drive almost all the way to the Jersey Shore without ever touching tire to tarmac except to cross over the road.  We'd stop at Apple Pie Hill to take in the view from the highest spot in South Jersey, a whole 205 feet or so, plus the fire tower.  On a good day you can see Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and if you are really lucky and it is clear, New York City was just in view.

Beautiful spot.

But most of that time I did it in my Honda Accord that predated the Jeep.  A 1978 Honda.  You had to hope it didn't break because parts had to come from Japan directly, and it rusted out by the second year in the front quarter panels because they designed little pockets for water and debris to sit in and corrode.

Surprisingly I didn't get stuck.

When Mom got her new car, I knew I had to go explore with it too.  Great.  Me and two of my friends piled into Mom's Car, an early 1980s Cadillac Sedan deVille D'elegance and headed out.

Mind you, since Jim was living in Medford, NJ, a beautiful suburban town on the edge of the NJ Pine Barrens Preserve, we knew we were going to see what this puppy could do.

Great, lets go to Atsion Lake.  Beautiful place where you were supposed to be able to see the Milky Way if the night was clear.  I never did.  I always believed it was a myth living in the light polluted areas near Philadelphia all my life.

But we got there.  Easy to get to, open two lane black top and we could open it up.  Nobody else there anyway.

I got a gallon of Pump Water for a girl I was seeing at the time since she always raved about how sweet the water was there.  It just tasted like iron to me so I let her keep the jug.

After boring ourselves, we hit the sugar sand road that went east toward Long Beach Island.  Not such a good idea.   The first couple miles were great.  We wallowed past a pothole or three, but nothing really tough.

See that's the problem.  Eventually those roads became the road less traveled.   Bringing a full sized Cadillac on a sand trail made no sense to anyone but us.  The pines closed in on the trail and eventually it got so that the trees were just on each side of the road. 

Beautiful spot but you just knew you weren't in the right car when driving on the road felt more like you were going through 6 inches of snow.

When is the last time you saw a Cadillac going through a 6 inch snowfall before the snowplow hit?

You guessed it.  About five miles from Atsion Lake, we wallowed to a stop.

Jim said it first: "You're stuck, Bill".
"Yeah I know, lets see what happened."

I was wheel hub deep in white beach sand.  That big Caddy buried itself to the transmission.

I popped the trunk and began to dig.  It moved easily and we were able to free the beast and back out of the road.

"Not a good idea, Guys, lets head back to the lake!"

We all agreed and got everyone back home.   I rolled into the driveway around midnight.  Mom was fast asleep as was Pat.  Giving the car a quick hose down, I washed away most of the evidence.

Mom drove the car to work the next day not knowing what happened.  She did have me hose down the driveway and ask how all that sand got onto it.

"Sorry, Mom, I don't have a clue."

Lets just say it was my education leaking out onto the driveway.   We never did the Caddy again.  The Jeep worked fine when it arrived, and until then we fed our offroading needs with my buddy's CJ-7.

Now that CJ ... that's a story in itself.

But people do ask me why I keep my Jeep.  Because of times like that.  When I do go back to visit friends and family in New Jersey, I intend to do that trip.  It may be the last time I get a chance to go offroad, but trust me, I'm looking forward to it. 

In the Jeep.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Building A Lego Reindeer? Get a 7 Year Old To Help

When I was a wee brat, Mom and Dad were generous with toys.  So much so that every so often they'd gather them up, cart off what they felt were excess and "give them away".

I learned to hide my favorites, but that wasn't foolproof.  I still remember that gunmetal grey 1959 Cadillac car that I had, complete with the tail fins, that was a dealer model.  It vanished one day and was never seen again from its hiding place.

But we always had toys, mostly creative ones, since those were the ones that held our interest.  My Lego bricks, our Lincoln Logs, and that Easy Bake Oven of my sisters were scattered all over the Wreck Room.

Yes, Wreck.  As in Disaster.

The little cakes that Pat made were tasty until we ran out of the mix!

I was helping someone Up North decide what he wanted to do for his new toy back around the holidays.  Joe needed a new computer.  The old desktop machine was over 15 years old and he just couldn't keep it running any more.  After false starts such as buying refurb or laptops, we designed a cutting edge desktop computer that was full of compromises that could be changed out later when finances allowed.

That was the Old School way of doing it.  I have built more desktop computers, repaired them, repurposed them, and recycled them than I care to count.  I've repaired laptops, swapped out LCD screens, rebuilt them, and upgraded them as well.   Same thing with the iPhones and Androids that I have here.  

If it's hardware, I'll repair or fix it.  When I throw it out, trust me, it's dead, Jim.

Despite desktop computers being hard to justify and even harder to justify building from scratch, that was exactly what he did.

To thank me, he sent me a token gift.  A Lego Reindeer.  We called it a Moose anyway, since that really is my nickname, kept from College.

I got it, laughed at the comical packaging, and opened the box.  It was there that I stopped.  There was a book and two bags of random parts.  There also was a book.  Helpful pictures telling you how to assemble it using as few words as possible.  Just numbers and colors and arrows.

It didn't help that their black and brown were so close together in tone that it was almost indistinguishable.

It gathered dust on the back corner of my dining room table for four months until I got a quiet Saturday Afternoon and an empty house.  Empty as in I was the only human.  Oscar the parrot was obsessing over the food I had at lunch and Rack the Superdog (TM) was sniffing around for that last spare cube of pork I always save for him when I have some.

"Here Boy, that's it, now go on!"  As he chewed up that bit of Char Siu Pork and padded from the room.  Oscar kept saying Hello over and over.

I looked at the book and thought "I'm glad it's ages 7 to Adult.  Now, where can I borrow a kid?".

Then I thought better of it.  If I could repair the broken screen in an iPhone, I surely could snap together a pile of 139 plastic bricks and a few extras, I hoped.

Looking at the first assembly, I thought I am glad I didn't try this at Age 7 and kept with my electronic projects.  The book was intractable.  Sure, it showed you what to do, but the pictures were so close in shades that I had to get out a flashlight that put out a sun's worth of light into a pinprick just to tell if it was brown or black.  I had to define this color as brown...

It made Ikea instructions look like War and Peace!

Getting through a couple assemblies Rack started alerting as the door slammed outside.  Kevin came in. 

"Oh, you're finally starting on that Moose!  Need help?"
"Yeah, you have a kid around?  It's ages 7 to Adult and this adult thinks it's insane!  I used to build Lego structures left and right when I was small but this?"
"It sure wasn't like that when we were small" said Kevin as he eyed the tiny little special purpose bricks meant to make a distant relation to a set of antlers.

Kevin disappeared laughing and came out bearing a metal Snoopy Lunch Box that rattled.

"Here, you're missing a piece!"  He tried to place a royal blue "Classic" lego block in the middle of my Moose Mess.
"Don't you dare try to leave that here!" I cautioned "It won't fit!"
"I think you just need a spare piece!"

I looked down at this pile of small pieces, a couple of sub assemblies, I wondered whether I was going to finish it at all.   A weird blue peg flew from the table onto the floor.  Rack went after it and decided it smelled like plastic and not tasty.

"Here, I'll get it for you, and here's a second one you dropped". 

A white block joined it on the table.  After inspecting it closely to make sure it wasn't a Classic block, I sent Kevin from the room. 

"Don't you need to add salt to the pool or something?  Go cut the grass!  Annoying thing!"
"Oh yeah, let me go test the pool, I'll be right back."

He sets the Snoopy Lunch Box on the table near, but not on top of my collection of Moose Legos.

"Very funny!  Git!"

I went back to assembling sub assemblies.  Got the torso done before he came back into the house.

"I'll be back later, I need salt"
"I'll say you do, just take this with you!" I rattled the box of Classic blocks.
"Are you sure you have enough pieces?"
"No, but these won't help!"

I really wasn't sure.  Turns out that I was short one brown block and had one black block extra.  Both were these strange coin thickness squares.  I didn't discover that I was missing a brown block until I went to do the final assembly of my Moose's Head. 

As a result of helping Joe, I have a Moose with a unibrow.  There's a black line above the eyes.  It looks like eyebrows.  Of course I put the eyes in crossed.  It made me go crosseyed as well, so it fits.

The moral of this story?  Got Legos, then Get a Kid to do it for you.  Those strange special purpose bricks won't go anywhere else.  It's a special purpose set only to build one thing.  In this case, a Moose.

I now am the proud owner of a blocky plastic Reindeer Moose looking thing and a few oddball random blocks.  Perfect to scatter on the floor so barefoot people can find them for me!

"Oh I lost that a while back! Thanks for finding it!" As they collapse in pain on my living room floor.